Florida’s population is growing, with over 21.7 million people calling the state home in July 2021. Ambitious tradespeople could find themselves in high demand as busy homeowners and renters look for help repairing and maintaining their homes. You could build a successful business in the Sunshine State with the right skills and ambition!
Contractors thinking about starting a small business may be asking themselves, “Do you need a contractor license in Florida?” The answer is yes, in some circumstances. This article outlines the requirements for contractor licenses in Florida, including insurance coverage obligations and options.
Who needs a contractor license in Florida?
A general contractor license is required in Florida if the work you do will become a finished part of the structure and the total is $500 or more. For example, if you replace the flooring in an entire room or build a new deck, you will likely need a general contractor license. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) issues general contractor licenses in Florida.
Carpenters may not need a general contractor license in Florida. A license may not be necessary if you only plan to provide minor repair work or specialize in non-construction carpentry (such as furniture making). However, having a contractor license could allow you to expand your services to grow your business.
There is no Florida handyman license, and you may not need a general contractor license if you only perform minor repairs. But as we’ve already mentioned, getting licensed could allow you to accept bigger and more expensive projects.
Who can become a contractor in Florida?
Tradespeople must meet the eligibility standards to apply for a general contractor license. You must:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Have a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
- Have a minimum of four years of work experience or a combination of education and work experience
- Be financially stable
Military experience and training may count towards the work experience and education requirement. Veterans are also eligible to have application fees waived, reimbursed, or discounted. The DBPR website contains up-to-date information on work/education requirements for Florida contractors.
How do I get a contractor license in Florida?
There are two types of general contractor licenses available in Florida: certified and registered. A certified license allows you to work anywhere in the state. With a registered license, you are only allowed to work in certain local jurisdictions.
The application process for certified and registered licenses is similar. Generally, you will need to:
- Pass a certification exam (certified) or submit a certificate of competency from your local licensing authority (registered).
- Provide a FICO credit report to prove you are financially stable.
- Pass a background check that includes fingerprinting.
- Buy General Liability insurance and Workers’ Compensation insurance, if necessary (or obtain a workers’ comp exemption).
- Pay an application fee (unless you qualify for a fee waiver).
There are other documents and information you may need to provide with your application, such as your employment history or financial records. More information can be found on the DBPR website.
Your general contractor license must be renewed every two years. The renewal process includes completing 14 hours of continuing education. This instruction must include a minimum of one hour on the following topics:
- Business practices
- Florida building code
- Laws and rules
- Workers’ compensation
- Workplace safety
Do Florida contractors need business insurance?
Florida contractors are required to have General Liability insurance (sometimes called public liability and property damage insurance). You are required to show proof of insurance when applying for your general contractor license.
Workers’ Compensation coverage is also required if you have employees. However, you may need a policy if you subcontract with other businesses. The Division of Workers’ Compensation website has more information on who needs this coverage and how to apply for an exemption.
Getting Florida Contractors to Work
A general contractor license in Florida can help open new doors for your small business. Getting licensed is essential for contractors entering the building, renovation, and home repair industry. It can also help established handymen offer new services to their clients and grow their business.